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Caregiving and Isolation within the LBGT Community: The Real Deal

Wes Collage-regular size
Top Photo: Wes Morrison in the production of "Tiger at the Gates" with the Foundry Players during the 80s. Bottom Photo: Wes helping out at AARP DC offices.

On June 5, 2014, AARP DC will lead a public conversation during the 2014 Capital Pride Week about gaining knowledge to identify caregiving and isolation resources. (Learn more about this event and register here.) Wes Morrison, an AARP DC volunteer, has learned to manage his caregiving needs and confront his feelings of isolation.  This is his story.

The Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration on Aging estimates that between 1.75 and 4 million Americans ages 60+ who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT). Wes, a Washington, D.C resident, is one in this group.

In 2009, Wes was laid off from his job in television news after 32 years. “What do you do,” he asked, “when suddenly you’re without work and you’re 60 years old?”

After all those years working for one company he found himself suddenly in limbo. He felt depressed, isolated, and useless. He wasn’t ready to throw in the towel yet, but a non-planned retirement was forced upon him.  Things hadn’t gone the way Wes had expected.

He had time on his hands and wanted to do something meaningful, to meet other people. So he looked into volunteering and found his way to AARP. It was a good move. There were opportunities for him to open up and help bring himself out of his feelings of isolation.

Wes always knew that when he retired he wanted to do something for the LGBT community. When he was asked by AARP DC to carry the LGBT flag in the annual Capital Pride parade, it became the beginning of his involvement with the advocacy group. AARP offered him many avenues to explore. Wes became involved with the D.C. Office on Aging, SAGE (Services and Advocacy for LGBT Elders) and PRiSM (AARP’s LGBT Strategic Engagement Employee Resource Group).  He helped out at Martha’s Table and worked with Latino groups. Wes began speaking on panels about health and wellness activities. His career as a producer in TV news gave him an advantage in organizing and planning events and serving people who needed help and advice.

But then along came a number of health problems.  Wes developed pneumonia; then he got shingles; then a broken collar bone.  In 2012 he had to have hip replacement surgery. The six months recuperating from these health problems and being home alone gave Wes time to think about it all. When he was working and volunteering he was more active and met many new people, but now Wes had to accept the realization that he didn’t have many personal friends. The feeling of isolation crept back. “I have nothing,” he reluctantly admitted to himself.  “I realized that the volunteer work was masking the isolation,” said Wes.

Over the years, Wes has determined that he has lost over 100 friends due to HIV/AIDs, other illnesses or suicide. He rarely got together with the few friends he had left. Even though volunteering with many organizations over the years had been fulfilling, he still felt alone. Helping others had been rewarding but deep down inside Wes felt he needed to work on himself. He wanted close friends again. He wanted to expand his circle. He knew it wouldn’t be an easy task, especially for a gay man his age.

“Yes,” he says. “There are gay bars, sports activities, social groups, theater workshops and gay churches but our youth-oriented culture makes it harder for someone my age to make friends, even in my own age group.”

But despite these obstacles Wes was determined to work on the relationships he had with his existing friends and he found new energy to cultivate other friendships through his volunteer work at AARP and other community groups.

“It’s a carefully planned process.  It’s not going to be easy,” Wes says. “At this age you have to set principles and values. One often has to be able to compromise and be more willing to take steps to develop new relationships,” he continued.  That’s what his mission is now.  It’s a personal one.

Wes will continue to help LGBT seniors live a better life with emphasis on cultural diversity and sensitivity. He will work on advocating for more facilities for those who need them and health care benefits for same-sex couples. “These are the things I see happening and the things I want to work for. AARP is on top of all that.”

Determination for Wes has never been stronger and he feels confident that with the help he has given to others, through AARP and other organizations, along with his renewed determination, he will avoid those feelings of isolation that can easily creep back. He feels confident that true friendships will follow.

“The exterior of a person does not denote what they are inside. Having dealt with nursing homes, you don’t know what’s going on inside unless you talk to the individual."

AARP DC is proud to be a Silver Sponsor for Capital Pride 2014 and is presenting Life Reimagined options to District residents who are 50+ years old.  To register for the upcoming: Lounge and Learn: A Conversation about Caring for Yourself and Others, contact: OR 1-877-926-8300.

(Interview and story from Rocci Fisch, an AARP DC volunteer.)

(Interviews and story by Rocci Fisch, an AARP DC volunteer) - See more at: OR 1-877-926-8300 - See more at:

Lounge and Learn:

A Conversation about Caring for Yourself and Others

- See more at:

Lounge and Learn:

A Conversation about Caring for Yourself and Others

- See more at:

Lounge and Learn:

A Conversation about Caring for Yourself and Others

- See more at:

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